Darkfall - Review

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I remember with both pleasure and regret the days of Ultima, Asherons Call and recently EVE Online, where the sandbox gameplay exceeded any of my expectations. Especially when compared to theme park MMORPG Games we play today which are highly limited and less impressive as the developers focus on creating lots of cash and pleasing everybody, rather than on creating a good game.

The sandbox niche market is very poor at the moment. The most polished MMO game in this section is EVE Online which, to be honest, has its fair share of flaws. Most of us MMO gamers already played it to death and we are now looking for some new fantasy/sci-fi setting. Our choices are very limited or close to nonexistent because there aren’t many of us out there so there is no chance of making big bucks from creating a game for us. However EVE Online proved during the last 8 years that this idea is not true. Unfortunately big companies still imitate WOW or other well established theme park MMOs and I am not talking about polish, but about gameplay.

In the last years a handful of companies tried to fill this void, one of them being the indie developer Aventurine from Greece. In 2009 they released their flagship product, Darkfall which promised to be the next Ultima Online in terms of gameplay. It was a game we’ve all been waiting for almost a decade. One year after its release I went back to Darkfall to check on his progress and here is what I found.

Darkfall  - Review

There are no classes in Darkfall, they are only races and from there you can become anything you want. The skills are improved through their use. If you usually run a lot in your adventures you will improve the speed you run at from level 1 to level 100. The same goes for other activities such as melee fighting and so on. Skills range from melee fighting skills, magic, archery to gathering and crafting. From this you can conclude that you will never know what your opponent wields in power depending on their visual aspect. It doesn’t matter if it wears armor or cloth, or if they have a sword in hand or bow/staff – you’ll have to adapt to each situation.

As a new adventurer in the world of Darkfall you start in one of the outposts owned by your race. Here you will be safe through a 24 hour PvP protection and also you will be guided on your first steps through questing, fighting goblins (ferocious bastards), crafting and gathering.

The combat is similar to Mount and Blade, a third person view with no auto targeting for melee, and first person for magic and archery. It works well and it requires lots of practicing for PVP, but on the other hand it’s easy to master in PvE. Since are no limits at the moment most of the players are hybrids, focused on melee/archery with some magic support (buffs). I have however encountered fully developed and one path focused classes such as powerful mages.

Darkfall  - Review

The most important feature, as in any decent sandbox mmorpg, is the full loot in PvP/PvE which scares most of the people. When you die all of the items you have in inventory and those equipped remain with your corpse, and can be retrieved by anybody until you arrive back from the shrine you spawned. This brings into focus the Risk vs Rewards some of us are looking for. Inflicting persistent damage to your enemy, single person or clan, making them feel the economic drawback resulting from your attacks and victories. No more: you just died, respawn with your same epix after 5 seconds of PvP, run back and try again. These days should long behind us as they are so much… “fun”. The Darkfall system gives new meaning to each fight and fills you with a serious dose of adrenaline. Strategy becomes important, planning also, because in the end the winner takes all.

The full PvP loot feature is not as scary as you might think once you realize how the game works. You should only carry what you afford to lose. You want to gather stuff? Wear only what you need. Going hunting? Get your mediocre gear. Participating in a clan battle/raid? Equip the best gear you have and get ready to wreak some havoc.

Darkfall  - Review

Most of your time in Darkfall will be spent on leveling your skills, improving your bank storage with new items for when you die, or on planning future clan battles. This can be regarded as some sort of grind, but in a sandbox environment most of the content is what you make of what the game offers you. There are more quests in the game than I expected and some were decent, with good rewards, filling the need for PVE and in the same time helping you get your hands on some money and equipment. The best thing about PVE is that all the monsters that you kill drop lots of loot and almost everything you pick up has a use.

Darkfall is a PvP oriented game overall, but it has enough PvE content together with a huge crafting and resource system to keep the most hardcore PvE-ers happy. When you adventure in the world for the first time what may seem only a basic rock for you is actually a resource node which can be gathered and then used for building cities. The same goes for trees when it comes to wood and bushes for alchemy. 80% of what you see in the environment can be gathered and then crafted into products, ranging from weapons, armors, cities to ships even, like Frigates or Ships of the Lines for sea battles.

Darkfall  - Review

While some will say that you require months to be competitive on 1v1, which is mostly true if you want to fight the vets, you can still have a good role as a support in any group right from the start. With the help of a long range weapon, a spell, and by assisting your clan mates with resurrection and heal and so on, you can impact the outcome of a battle. On my first week I was on 2 sieges, 1 city defense and 1 ship to ship fight which was absolutely incredible. This is a group oriented game since most of the city and hamlets are owned by the players. Alone is pretty hard to survive so join a clan as soon as you get the chance.

On high details the environment graphics are great, with dynamic shadows and incredible landscape points of interest, though it requires a good graphic card. But the game is very scalable so if you are not graphics freak you can play it on almost any computer available in the last 3-4 years. The animations are somewhat mediocre, but after some time you will get used to them. The particles are mediocre at best and so is the lighting system.

Overall if you are looking for an innovative sandbox mmorpg, a little rough around the edges, but with good PvP and incredible freedom, Darkfall is a good bet. Try the trial: you might be surprised and end up never looking at a theme park MMO again.

Rating: 7.5

Thane Solus

Darkfall - Review, 9.4 out of 10 based on 33 ratings


  • Sc0rp

    Good read trough and review.

    I’ve been playing the game for about 2 years now that is since the beginning and can tell you as long as you stick to an active group of players you won’t get bored and can always make fun yourselve and you can also chose how to level yourselve no special requirements to go anywhere in this game.

    Apart from that there is a big patch incoming which will bring a prestige class system so you can chose your role and this role can always be changed.

    Have to love sandbox games.

  • Spede

    The next expansion features DX11 graphics, improved animations, a whole new UI system, and other improvements.

  • Uhmm?

    dx11 graphics haven’t been mentioned for a year now…

  • someredguy

    This game is a must if you are looking for an adrenaline rush, challenge, unpredictable gaming sessions, and something to play for years. The emotional highs and lows are much more extreme than most MMORPGs out there and the first couple months can be pretty rough until you have learned the controls and developed your tactics. This is not the type of game that you can approach like themepark games where you create a character and then quest until the level cap where you experience the end-game content. In Darkfall, it is all about the journey as there are no rails that players are forced to follow and there is no end-game since there are no level restrictions. There is no following the next floating arrows and exclamation points in your quest-tracker in this game!

    Almost 2 years in now and my heart still jumps almost every time that I play.

    : )

    There are so many different ways to play this game that you cannot get from any other game. It is definitely worth checking out but keep in mind that the 2-week trial is not long enough to have familiarized yourself with the game as it can have a steep learning curve and is not very casual friendly. Around 10-20 hours a week is probably your minimum and you will never be able to compete with the hardcore gamer on the same level but you can still win them using your wits, teamwork, and twitch skills. There are so many things that can determine the outcome of a fight that it is mind-boggling.

    When you die in this game you die because YOU messed up somehow and no matter how long you play it for you will be brought to the edge of your seat and lose (sometimes more often than new players if you are having a bad week).

    pros

    - No other game can match the adrenaline rush.
    - Mobs have superior AI as they can actually see or hear you and show team work. They may be GM-controlled so do not be surprised if they are acting unpredictable and sometimes they will mass together to attack a city (GM-controlled event)
    - FFA PVP with full-loot in an environment that has little to no hacks used. Aimbot is pretty much no good in this game as well because there is no sprint-strafe. The only safe-zones in this game are maintained by players for the most part (do not go AFK or you may die no matter where you are).
    - FPS gameplay (you can use your environment to assist in combat such as using a tree or ramparts of a wall for cover and fights tend to feel more realistic).
    - Mounted combat, Naval combat, and siege warfare between clans makes this a revolutionary PVP game.
    - Funnest bunny-hopping physics for any of you old-school FPS gamers (many people consider this a con). The moons are the only things that you can see which are out of reach.
    - Mostly player-skill oriented (almost every single time that I have died it was my fault and a mistake that I somehow made since I started but some of those lessons that need to be learned can be harsh).
    - Class-less. Although many people do not like this part of the game it is refreshing to many of us not being stuck to a certain role and being able to use what we want when we want without so many restrictions. You will not ever have to reroll after finding out your class is gimped in this game, for example.
    - Gigantic Sandbox. No instances in a HUGE world and only one character per account. I have been playing for 2 years and have only seen about 70% of the map and half of the dungeons.

    cons

    - Not very casual friendly (manage to have a lot of fun with 10-20 hours a week though).
    - You skill up in what you use so people can get caught up in doing repetitive and boring tasks to ‘level-up’ faster or setup a macro for AFK gains (they are attempting to fix this with something called ‘meditation’ but still needs lots of work).
    - Gaming keyboard or mouse may drastically improve your experience. It can take months to perfect your controls using a gaming keyboard or macros to improve your response time during combat (significant advantage to have!). Absolutely everyone that I know who plays this game has a completely different kind of setup that took months to put together and customize (much like their characters).
    - You can be camped out of the game (unable to play until your enemy moves on) which is actually rare and even though people have had it in for me, it has only happened to me a couple times.
    - This game can hurt your ego! I find it comforting to play a ‘safe’ game on the side for when my ego needs repairing (like GW or COD for example). Most other MMORPGs are casual friendly so that is no problem to get some quick ‘instant gratification’ fix for a few minutes after losing in Darkfall. PVP is actually not that often though and I play with some who do not like to PVP and play this game mostly for the PVE.
    - Imbalanced player-preferred builds. This needs much more work! There seems to be a ‘flavor of the month’ that people usually feel like they need which always changes but nobody is forced into a role and you can opt out of whatever build you are trying at any time so that helps quite a bit.

    Good luck!

    Even though I hated this game at first I am unable to log into other MMORPGs anymore for longer than an hour. They are very boring compared to this one once you get your bearings.

  • sindur

    i have the same problem sometimes when i get bored of this game and trying to find new MMORPG i just get bored afther a week or two and then i got back to darkfall.

    Afther you have played this game you will never go back to other MMORPGs

  • Darkfallplayer

    If you’re the kind of person who says, “I don’t like paintball, it hurts” this may not be the mmo for you, if however, you love paintball, precisely because it DOES hurt, and that brings the adrenaline, changeing it from a game/sport, to an experience, Darkfall is your MMO. Darkfall gives you an open ended freeroaming pvp experience with PAIN. All other pvp is meaningless after you have experienced the rush of a full loot game. I love Eve as well, but the combat in Darkfall is far more dynamic, and action oriented.